162-167/365 – It’s time to speak of the soul

DSCN2069It was a pilgrimage to a part of her soul – that was the point of visiting Paris with Dearest.  She had learned the language there and absorbed French culture and that had added to her character key components of grace, taste, tolerance and style that had been missing in the American Midwest.  Could I discover something too?  I dared not hope, yet it came quite easily.

We were sitting in a café, engaged in a rich conversation as always, when the words came to me: “Soul home – home of the soul.  The place your soul feels at home.”  I suddenly felt an attachment to place, to a milieu, to a way of living and loving on this earth that suits me.

Aside: This is the creative soul we’re talking about here – obviously our eternal souls already have a source and eventual succor.  But what about the things that make your mind race and your heart beat faster?  What about the ideas and feelings that motivate you to create beauty and seek truth?

We passed the thought back and forth, each shaping it in new ways as I scribbled in my notebook, “The place where the best ideas flourish, where ideas are the reality.”

“Find your soul’s home, the source of your soul’s creative fountain.  The soul’s inspiration point.  Where your soul takes life.”

In French, “inspiration de l’âme.”

That’s what Paris meant to us.  It suddenly became obvious why artists, writers, poets, and thinkers and creators of all kinds have gravitated there for centuries.

Yes, every soul needs a home — and she added, “Just as every home needs a soul.”  I feel my soul has found its home at last.


161/365 – Paris is not for parking

ParkingI never drove a car in Paris, and I’m glad.  The pace seems intense and the rules of the road kind of loose, plus most of the streets are one-way or one-lane, with huge roundabouts that seem chaotic to the first-time observer.  But the main problem is: Where do you park?

Okay, most of the large buildings have courtyards, so that’s where a lot of cars go, out of sight through the big doors along the narrow streets.  There are also lots of underground parking lots, with discreet little signs next to a plunging driveway.  Then there are the streets, where cars seems to be left anywhere and everywhere, backwards, on corners, pulled up on the sidewalk, and so close together, it’s hard to tell how someone got in the spot or will ever get out.

At least the cars are small, and there doesn’t seem to be much air pollution.  Mostly our attitude while strolling the streets of Paris was to beware of the cars and wait patiently at marked crosswalks with traffic lights (watching mainly for bicycles and scooters, whose drivers seemed to mostly behave, although they sometimes try pushing through pods of pedestrians.)

160/365 – Scooters and motorcycles in Paris

Dark_cycleI call them “The Dark Knights of Paris” – helmeted motorcycle drivers zooming through traffic by riding the stripes between lanes with aggression, showing no fear.  They are accompanied by a buzzing bunch of hornets – the motor-scooter crowd – many of whom are women.  Actually everyone wears helmets, so you can’t tell the gender or age of the two-wheeled warriors until they park. 

Special parking spots are set aside for the two-wheeled [FRENCH WORDS], but that doesn’t stop scooters from being parked just about anyplace else.  Back home in Madison, this being a major college campus town, scooters are also the rage, but they are generally driven in a much more kindly manner, and are probably underpowered compared to the French models.  I hope these vehicles all become electric in the future.  That would calm the noise level down a lot.

159/365 – Did I tell you about the bikes?

Brave_bike_ridersBicycles are everywhere in Paris, bikes of every description, being ridden by every sort of person – the earnest young woman dressed for work, the older man in a suit, the student, the elderly – all bravely coursing along next to the crazy torrent of busses, cars, and delivery vans (the Renault Kangoo being my favorite model.)

I expected heavy use of bikes – you see it in all the European films – but what I didn’t expect was the huge extent of the bike rental business.  Well, it’s not really a business, per se, it’s a publicly subsidized convenience. 

The city hall (Mairie de Paris) of Paris operates a rental program called Vélib’ with literally thousands of three-speed unisex bikes at hundreds of stations around the city.  It costs just one euro (about $1.45) a day for an unlimited number of 30-minute jaunts (subscriptions are also available). If you use the bike for an hour, that adds a euro, another half-our adds two euros, so the thing is designed for short trips (under 30 minutes is free.)  Even the guy we were renting the apartment from sued a Velib’ to come over from his office.  It’s an amazingly good idea, and Paris is on the way to becoming a city of bikes.

Typical Velib' bike station in Paris.

Typical Velib' bike station in Paris.

156-7/365 – Best subways, too


My stop on the Paris Metro

My stop on the Paris Metro

It’s all about infrastructure.  You can’t pack 9 million people into a metro area like Paris and expect them to get anything done without a way to get around underground.  I’ve experienced the subway system of several cities, and there’s nothing like Paris.  Most of the main lines are on rubber tires so they’re quiet and smooth. The drivers ease out of the station and brake gently so you’re not  jerked around, and the stations are clean.  The Metro, as it’s called, also seems to go everywhere, and you’re never far from a stop. 

Although we did finally take a ride on a line that did have metal wheels and I remarked to Dearest how the screeching reminded me of Chicago’s El, all that meant was that the least of the Paris Metro lines was still better than the best Chicago could do. I think American cities could do a much better job of getting people to work and school confortably and quietly.